Marcia Fudge, the Ohio Congresswoman, and now Secretary of Housing and Urban Development appointed by President Joe Biden, is an unabashed advocate of equity. In her confirmation hearing before the Senate, she explained to Senator Tom Cotton exactly what she meant by “equity” — and she made sure to distinguish the term from equality.
“From my own perspective, the difference is that one just means that you treat everybody the same… Sometimes the same is not equitable.”
Fudge went on to elucidate her points with examples:
You know if you say to me that I’m going to give you five dollars so you’re going to give my friend five dollars, my five dollars is not necessarily going to go as far because my friend already has a mother and father who is wealthy and they’re giving them.
Let’s just do it this way… Homeownership, let’s take it that way. They say let’s make everything equal. But it’s not equal because even though I may meet all of the qualifications to qualify for a loan, you know, I’ve got the right credit scores, et cetera, but I don’t have down payment money because my parents can’t afford to give me down payment money. There is no wealth coming to me.
Equity means making the playing field level… Sometimes it’s not level if you just say, “Let’s just treat everybody the same.”
And there you have it. Equality means treating everyone regardless of ethnic or racial affiliation the same. Equity demands legislating equal results from unequal causes. It is a nefarious and evil idea that must be explained properly so people can reject it outright.
Those who uphold the principle of equity are attempting to reverse the laws of identity and causality by introducing metaphysical egalitarianism: the idea that all men are actually born with or acquire talents, skills, and capabilities of equal proportion in intelligence, strength, discipline, perseverance, frugality, temperance, tenacity, exercise of our rational faculty, wisdom, moral sensibility and a plethora of other dispositions that determine outcomes.
Fudge and the equity squad attempt to pass over on society the following idea: if such talents, capabilities, and dispositions were not equally allocated among the races and among individuals, then the state would need to artificially interfere and ensure that equality of outcomes and results preceded equality of opportunity. That is, she is mandating equal results from unequal causes. Equal rewards for unequal performance.
This idea which was truly launched during President Johnson’s Great Society Programs and his War on Poverty initiatives had a devastating effect on the agency of black individuals and resulted in the emasculation of black men in general. It forced black women to use the state as a surrogate husband, and disincentivized black fathers from supporting their children. We must bear in mind that equity is a violation of the principle on which America was founded (political equality and not economic equality). But first, I want to explain why even equality of opportunity is a politically untenable goal in a free society.
Equality of opportunity sounds like a beautiful thing to most people and, in an ideal utopia in which all persons were blessed with equal abilities and exercised the choices and judgments in a consistently rational and productive manner, one could imagine such an ideal being approximated. But what is an opportunity?
An opportunity is a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something and to achieve a goal. Equality of opportunity rests on the idea of trying to equalize initial chances of success. But exactly how does one do this without trespassing on the rights of others? A single mother who works three jobs to send her two children to private school, both of whom work very hard and graduate with honors, will have more increased opportunities to attend Ivy league colleges than the parent who sends his child to a mediocre public school.
The single mother’s children who graduate from Wharton Business School and Harvard Law school respectively will have more employment opportunities than Mary Joe’s children who opted not to go to college or even trade school but to occasionally apply for jobs for which they are not remotely qualified.
The mother who, after hours of tedious work, reads to her child every night before she falls asleep and engenders a passion for books in her young daughter who later goes on to become a successful book editor in publishing has, through her efforts, generated more opportunities for her child than a parent for whom reading before bedtime seems pointless.
Are black NBA players who dominate the sport of basketball to be penalized because they have more opportunities for playing the sport than Asian men?
Freedom of equality of rights is what ought to be prized in a free society and the freedom to take advantages of opportunities as they avail themselves to us ought to be our goal.
Freedom of opportunity is predicated on the notion that circumstances, that are often the result of the value-generated actions of others, should be controlled by the state. This is a recipe for totalitarianism. And further, even under a totalitarian state, it is empirically untenable. One cannot control the multiplicity of variables generated from human creative agency which produce opportunities for oneself and others.
Belief in the equality of opportunities is a form of magical thinking because its advocates purport to master the existence of phenomena that do not yet exist.
Opportunities arise as human beings are left free to pursue their values and exercise efforts on behalf of their lives. Values result from attributes persons possess which cannot be redistributed. What the advocates of both equality of opportunity and result wish to do then, is to deprive persons the results of the consequences of their actions. The attempt to redistribute the products of a person’s values indiscriminately is a form of appropriation that is impossible and irrational and, therefore, unethical.
There is no zero-sum game here. Opportunities one creates lead to actions and avenues and venues for others to properly take advantage of and benefit from. But freedom rather than abstract legislation mandating equal results is what makes the possibility of equality even possible.
Equality of results (equity) advocates rely less on the sort of magical thinking that equality of opportunity advocates ideate. The appropriators take the aggregate of wealth that exists as a single conceptual unit in a country and speak as if it were the national wealth that was meant to be distributed. Wealth is not a cake that belongs to a nation.
Wealth is the concrete manifestation of the abstract values that humans hold applied here on earth. It belongs to those individuals who created it and ought not be seized by society from the people who created it.
The equity appropriators fail to realize that economic inequality is the inevitable result of the fact that human beings were not born equal; but they avoid also the fact that the United States was founded not upon the principle of economic equality, but political equality.
Wealth that is privately created by individual effort is not created on the assumption that the creator of that wealth will end up with an equal share of his wealth. Quite the opposite. As Yaron Brooks points out in his book Equal is Unfair: if I plant ten apple trees on an island, and Jack plants five, one cannot say I have grabbed a bigger part of the island’s apple pie, so to speak. I have created more wealth than Jack, and I have left him no worse off. It would be absurd to say that I have stolen fifty percent of the island’s wealth. If Jack especially made a choice not to plant extra tress, having rather spent his time relaxing under a coconut tree, there is no reason why I should be penalized for the extra initiative I have taken in planting the extra apple trees and cultivating them.
By participating in the massive welfare reparations programs of the 1960s, black Americans were complicit in their own stigmatization that came to be associated with the wealth extortion wealthier Americans paid for their financial upkeep. Blacks sold out their autonomy, sovereignty, and pride for entitlements they were told they deserved. They voluntarily evicted themselves from that competitive and venturesome realm in which the American Dream is achieved. The American Dream, however, was never achieved through a government handout.
Blacks are now part of the sovereign mass. The achievement of that status prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act was not theirs to claim and enjoy entirely. Like all persons, who through legislative and judicial processes, are admitted into the judicial and ethical pantheon, they must face a harsh truth. There will be inequities, inequalities, and disparities. But life itself is not predicted on equality because, again, we are all not equal. In fact, disparity and inequality are the norm. What must be secured are the foundations of freedom and liberty and equality of rights.
A cult of economic dependency, encouraged by equity advocates such as Fudge, President Biden and Vice President Harris, has lasted for over fifty-six years now. It has drained many in the black community of their creative agency, eviscerated them of their dignity, turned them into pitiable mendicants, and above all, sent the life-denying message that one’s fate and destiny lie outside of one’s own hands, that one is not responsible for oneself, and that wealthy Americans are responsible for one’s salvation.
For many black Americans who participated in the Great Society Welfare Reparations Program, supplication became a form of strategic self-presentation in which one emphasized one’s incompetence, weakness, and helplessness. The purpose of appearing helpless is to showcase one’s dependence on others to procure their help or sympathy. One does not merely need to pretend to be dependent. One must manufacture inadequacies in oneself to legitimize dependency and the attendant chronic relief that alleviates that suffering which produces the dependency.
People who are socialized to believe others owe them something, anything other than respect for their individual rights, are being taught to behave like slothful panhandlers who exaggerate their condition of destitution to exploit the sympathies of the rich in order to procure more of their wealth.
Supplicants exploit their weakness by throwing themselves at the mercy of others, thereby canceling out the possibility of achieving any form of moral equality with their wealthier counterparts.
The economic supplicant, bred by the belief in equity, must chronically see the world as a place in which no efficacious action is possible, at least none of the sort that could ameliorate or emancipate him from his economically strained position. To live in a world in which one believes that efficacious actions cannot influence choices and consequences that can affect one’s destiny is to exist in a monstrously intolerable state.
Addiction to the financial beneficence of others becomes one’s only escape route. The suppliant, therefore, must place his salvation solely in the hands of another.
Dependents will remain second class citizens if they submit to an agreeable supplication on the terms of the equity-based welfare state.
Economic supplication and its logical corollary—an inverted moral identity—based on the view of oneself as a distinct, non-value, breeds a pervasive sense of self-inferiority and self-abnegation since it takes traits such as despondency, weakness, helplessness, victimization, slothfulness, and other-dependency as constitutive features of one’s identity.
They over-saturate the self to such an extent that the aspirational component of who one is gets canceled.
Advocates of equity – that is, guaranteeing equal results from unequal causes – will always say it’s a social good. I have heard this sort of conceptual inanity repeatedly, and I have often asked for clarification. When asked what is meant by social good, left-wingers often mean “the public interest.” When asked to define the public interest, they fumble and mumble and twist themselves like linguistic pretzels into all orders of moral conundrums.
Society is nothing more than the sum of each individual person. Therefore, any reference to the public good would have to first logically refer to what is the good of each individual person. The answer to this presupposes the question: how do we know what that good is? One of the glorious achievements of this country, and one that has appealed to millions the world over, is that here we get to choose a conception of the good for ourselves.
For some, it is having a family, for others it is pursuing a career or devoting one’s life to a specialized hobby, service to others, traveling — you name it. There are as many conceptions of the good as there are persons to imagine them for themselves.
In the United States of America, the state has no business imposing its own, or any conception of the good on you, or deciding a priori what your conception of the good is. It leaves you free to choose your own notion of the good, so long as in doing so, you do not violate the individual rights of others. Any notion of the public good foisted on individuals by an appeal to equity means that a group of people has decided that their interests and their conception of the good should be the sum of the good of all members of society. It is an act of tyranny because it overrides your conscience and takes away your indubitable capacity to decide what the good is for you personally.
Equity cannot be achieved without legalized, fiscal theft! The moral question that must be posed to the recipient of the loot is: what does it do to your moral life as a person to be the permanent beneficiary of this form of looting? It sends a very paralyzing message to such individuals. And it is this: that it is fundamentally misfortune, simpliciter, that gives them a right to rewards.
The message that is transmitted is that it is not your own efforts and initiative exercised on behalf of your life that are responsible for its upkeep; rather, it is your misfortune. And this misfortune should be a mortgage on the purse strings of others. Any entitlement demand that stems from a sense of the unearned is basically an act of stealing a value from another person. Since values are the products of the mind and of one’s effort, and wealth is the material application of human values on earth, to accept the appropriated products of another person’s mind is to engage in the nationalization and colonization of the human mind of another person. It is cognitive extortion.
If people see misfortune, or bad luck, or even cosmic injustice (theirs or anyone else’s) as the fundamental justification for demanding reward, then they will inevitably come to disregard their creative capabilities which have great emancipatory and restorative powers, as non-constitutive features of their identities. They will, inexorably, have been alienated from a deep fundamental sense of what it means to be a human being.
If we come to understand the chicanery behind equity, then people like Marcia Fudge and her advocates can be felled not piecemeal, but in a wholesale manner —apocalyptically. And liberty and freedom, not equity, will be prized as the highest moral good.
Jason D. Hill is professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago, and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center. His areas of specialization include ethics, social and political philosophy, American foreign policy and American politics. He is the author of several books, including We Have Overcome: An Immigrant’s Letter to the American People (Bombardier Books/Post Hill Press). His new forthcoming book is What Do White Americans Owe Black People: Racial Justice in the Age of Post Oppression. Follow him on Twitter @JasonDhill6.